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Lebanon Tennis Earns Another Trip to Semis

  • Max Reed talks to Lebanon coach Rich Kelly between sets in his match at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on May 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    Max Reed talks to Lebanon coach Rich Kelly between sets in his match at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on May 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon's number three Jeff Purdy serves during his match against Goffstown's Kyle Arnold at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on May 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    Lebanon's number three Jeff Purdy serves during his match against Goffstown's Kyle Arnold at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on May 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Max Reed talks to Lebanon coach Rich Kelly between sets in his match at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on May 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)
  • Lebanon's number three Jeff Purdy serves during his match against Goffstown's Kyle Arnold at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on May 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

Lebanon — Even if the opponent won’t be the same, this semifinal appearance thing is getting to be old hat for the Lebanon High boys tennis program — although the route zigzagged a bit in Wednesday’s 6-3 defeat of Goffstown on the Carter Community Building Association courts.

Lebanon coach Rich Kelly figured on a similar result to open the NHIAA Division II postseason as happened in the Raiders’ 6-3 win over the Grizzlies three weeks ago. In that date, fourth-seeded Lebanon (12-3) picked up its points from the bottom four singles slots and the bottom two doubles tandems.

Not quite so this time around. After teammates dropped two of the day’s first three singles points, Lebanon’s No. 1 player, Max Reed, muscled past Goffstown’s Martin Pelletier, 8-5, to put the Raiders ahead to stay. Reflective of the roster depth that will send Lebanon to a semifinal at top-ranked Derryfield this afternoon, third doubles duo Jacob Peress and Jacob Armstrong clinched the match with an 8-1 demolition of the Grizzlies’ Ross Theroux and Wayne LaRue.

“This year, I told everybody (to) fight every match like it’s 4-all and you have to win, and everybody did that,” Reed said. “Everybody played amazing, fought so hard. I’m so proud of our guys for getting it done.”

The Derryfield date marks a switch for the Raiders, who fell to archrival Hanover in the semis the last two springs. Aside from that, very little has changed for seventh-year coach Rich Kelly’s crew this season.

The late start to the campaign limited the time for challenge matches, so Kelly’s lineup hasn’t varied much. And the bottom end of it — Jeff Purdy, Terran Campbell and the Jacobs — has been a very important part of it.

Campbell, Peress and Armstrong yielded all of one combined game in racing to singles victories over the fifth-ranked Grizzlies (11-4) on Wednesday. After falling to Goffstown’s Kyle Arnold at No. 3 singles, 8-5, Purdy rebounded to end the afternoon on the winning side, pounding the match-closing volley of an 8-6 first doubles decision with Reed.

“It’s always nerve-racking a little bit,” Kelly confessed. “It ended up about being the score I expected, but not in the pattern that I expected. … When we went 4-2 into the doubles, I was totally confident we would take third doubles. The fact that we took first doubles was icing on the cake.”

If so, then Reed’s first singles win was the flour, that ingredient without which the cake just doesn’t bake.

A member of the United States roster for this summer’s world junior squash championships in Namibia, Reed finds appeal in the team nature of high school tennis. When not busy battling Pelletier, who used his athleticism and power for an 8-5 win over Reed in the teams’ regular-season encounter, Reed threw encouraging words toward Lebanon No. 2 Nabeel Khan or inquired discreetly on the progress of other Raiders.

“There have been lots of matches where I’ll get down 3-0 because I’m so focused on (teammates),” Reed said. “It’s great. I’m looking for them, rooting for them, trying to give them mental tennis tips, and they’re doing the same for me.”

Pelletier and Reed battled tooth and nail over 75 minutes, going to deuce in six of their first 10 games. Up 6-5 against Pelletier’s serve, Reed won the deciding game by blasting a backhand winner down the line at 40-30 for his second service break of the match. The junior used a crosscourt pass for the clinching point of his 8-5 victory.

“I think squash helps my tennis, but tennis hurts my squash,” Reed said. “But I can’t play squash extremely intensely 12 months of the year, so right now I’m playing tennis. … It’s good to take a break, mentally refresh and do something new.

“I’m on a team, y’know? I’m out there by myself in squash. To be on a team, to be with all my bros, it’s awesome.”

Lebanon’s depth is reflected in the fact that Kelly can put two freshmen, Campbell and Peress, into the fourth and fifth slots of his singles ladder and expect both to excel. Campbell set two program marks this year with 14 singles victories and 26 total wins.

“I’ve never started two freshmen at the same time,” Kelly said. “And even when I’ve had freshmen, it’s been, ‘Oh, this guy’s a great athlete.’ But those two came in and knew how to play great tennis.”

Kelly’s only change of note has been to pair Reed and Purdy in doubles, where Reed and Khan — the Raiders’ No. 2 in singles — united in the past.

Reed’s past partner is most comfortable on the baseline, where he can blast forehands and, well, make opponents feel the wrath of Khan. Bearing similar athletic natures, Reed and Purdy are more inclined to chase shots all over the court as required.

The Grizzlies’ Pelletier and Nick Flanders made them do that in the day’s final match, building an early 3-2 lead. Reed and Purdy fought back to 4-3 and were never tied again, with Purdy slamming down the final point.

“Next up: Derryfield,” Peress intoned after he and Armstrong closed their doubles decision.

That Hanover doesn’t await matters not at all.

Reed: “We’re pumped for that match.”

Aces: The Raiders dropped an 8-1 decision to the Cougars in their sole meeting on May 14 in Manchester. Reed and Purdy provided the sole point at first doubles. Lebanon lost two singles matches in tiebreakers and two others by slim margins. … In addition to Arnold’s win over Purdy, Goffstown gained its points through Flanders’ 8-2 defeat of Khan at No. 2 and a second doubles win for Arnold and Sam Tardif over Lebanon’s Kahn and Campbell. … Derryfield is returning to Division I next spring after two seasons in D-II, Kelly said. … Winners of today’s semifinals meet for the state championship on Tuesday at Bedford High School.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.